10 K-Pop Acts That Dominated 2022

From record-breaking debuts to major world tours, here are 10 K-pop acts that defined the year

top K-pop acts 2022
Illustration by Allison Aubrey

    The 2022 edition of our Annual Report continues with a spotlight on some of the best and brightest acts in K-pop. As the year winds down, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of the year. You can find it all in one place here.

    As 2022 winds to a close, it’s a little unbelievable to consider how much has happened in K-pop this year. Between comebacks, departures, surprise releases, and exciting debuts, it was very difficult to narrow it down to just 10 acts in particular who dominated the conversation.

    It’s worth remembering that there’s something for everyone under the K-pop umbrella, whether you’re more drawn to a group’s camaraderie, sonic style, great choreography, or fun concept. Elsewhere in our 2022 Annual Report, we’ve already discussed the impact of BTS (who have arguably transcended the K-pop label altogether), and are here to dig into 10 more acts that made headlines and made great music throughout the past year.


    Check out the list, arranged in alphabetical order, with exclusive insights and reflections from group members below.


    aespa video interview k-pop group of the future

    aespa, photo courtesy of SM Entertainment

    It was another big year for aespa, the K-pop group of the future. Barely two years into their story, these four have found the balance of experimental and conventionally catchy that keeps their music on repeat. As their team dynamic continues to grow, so does their global listener base.

    KARINA: It was super nice to meet our fans while promoting this year, and it was nice having time to practice on our own and refresh during our breaks. I am looking forward to our next comeback, and excited to show different sides of aespa and our unique charms!


    WINTER: I am so proud of our teamwork and how we pushed through this amazing year as a group. We help energize each other and for that, I am always grateful. I hope our fans feel the same positive energy when are all together!

    NINGNING: I am proud of how much we’ve all grown. I also want to share that we are constantly working hard to improve and become better artists! I am confident we can showcase our continuous growth if we continue to put in the hard work.

    GISELLE: This year, we have seen a lot of growth as a team, and I’m proud of how far we’ve come. We are so thankful to our fans, for their love and support. They truly motivate us to work hard and come back better and stronger than before!


    KARINA: This year, we did in-person signing events with our fans for the first time, and it was so much fun. Before, we were only able to meet our fans very briefly on stage, at music shows, or during video call fan events. But now, we have more opportunities to see our fans in-person, like small meet & greet fan events during music show promotions. Each interaction is memorable and precious, and meeting our MYs always makes our day!

    WINTER: Each and every stage with our MYs this year has been very meaningful and precious. It’s incredible being able to perform in front of our fans now and I can’t wait to meet more MYs next year!

    NINGNING: Each and every time we meet our MYs becomes a precious memory. This year, we met our fans in Paris for the first time, and it was truly a new uplifting experience. I hope we can meet more of our fans in the future and create more memories together.


    GISELLE: MYs we met in Paris during Paris Fashion Week were especially memorable since everything was a first-time experience. I loved interacting with each and every one of them. I hope to see them again in Paris and visit other cities to meet more of our MYs around the world.

    KARINA: This year, I got to talk a lot with the members. We became so much tighter and spent the year better understanding and considering one another. Since before the debut, we have talked about wanting to shoot a reality content, so I’m glad we got to film one this year and spend a lot of time together!

    WINTER: It was most memorable when the four of us went to film our reality content, which also ended up being our first trip together. I especially recall we were at this place up high, and we turned off all the lights to look for the stars in the sky. I can’t wait for you guys to watch it!


    NINGNING: We filmed a reality content for the first time. We’ve been busy with our schedule and haven’t had the chance to travel with the members yet, and I was so happy. I still recall the numerous activities and games we did together. Hope you guys enjoy it once it comes out!

    GISELLE: We went to Australia for a shoot, and there was a time where we were at our last filming location together. That moment was the most memorable for me. It’s always fun shooting with the members, but being in the new city made everything so much more exciting. We had a great time and I hope we can visit again and hopefully meet our Aussie MYs!


    ateez world ep 1

    ATEEZ, photo courtesy of KQ ENTERTAINMENT


    ATEEZ kicked off 2022 with a massively successful world tour — and, refusing to end the year without making the most of absolutely every moment available to them, they’ve finished 2022 with a second world tour on the books, too.

    “This is the first time we tried two tours in a year. It was a big challenge for us but now it was a really good present for Atiny,” group leader Hongjoong tells Consequence. “Thank you for loving us, and thank you for coming to our show.”

    In addition to spending so many months on the road, the members of ATEEZ have stayed busy writing and recording. Their edgy, futuristic THE WORLD EP.1: MOVEMENT pushed the eight-piece act in a new direction musically, while their latest Japanese-language release, THE WORLD EP.PARADIGM, features a characteristically energetic new single to round out a busy year. ATEEZ continue to pull fans into their addictive orbit — it’s hard not to root for their team dynamic and harder still not to be amazed by their stage presence.


    Be sure to check back in for more from ATEEZ this week.



    ENHYPEN, photo courtesy of BELIFT LAB

    “Our world tour was unforgettable as we got to visit the US and Japan together as a band,” ENHYPEN tell Consequence. “For some of us, it was the first time visiting these places, so it was especially exciting. Naturally, we spent even more time together on the road, and apart from meeting our ENGENEs abroad, it was the simple moments like exploring our tour stops or eating dinner while recapping our show each night that made our tour truly memorable.”

    The “MANIFESTO” world tour took the septet to the next level, seeing ENHYPEN successfully sell out arenas around the globe. Their dynamic 2022 EP, MANIFESTO: DAY 1, kept the group in the conversation, in addition to a successful Japanese-language release that surpassed 300,000 copies sold, making ENHYPEN the fifth K-pop act to achieve that number within one week of release. It was their world tour, though, that stands out in the members’ memories.


    “We felt incredible joy and pride witnessing firsthand our ENGENEs enjoying our performance, and we look forward to making more memories to be proud of not only with our ENGENEs, but also with each other in the upcoming year,” they share.

    “We’re excited to continue our ‘MANIFESTO’ world tour at the beginning of 2023 with stops in Thailand and the Philippines. We’ll also be performing for two nights in Japan’s Kyocera Dome, which feels like a dream come true for us as we recently just celebrated our two years together as a band. We’re also working on a new album for the new year, so ENGENEs please look forward to it!”


    IVE, photo courtesy of Starship Entertainment


    It’s a bit shocking to realize that IVE just passed the one-year mark as a group considering the following they’ve build since their debut. Building off the momentum of their catchy debut song, “Eleven,” IVE truly erupted with their late summer smash “After LIKE.” People are clamoring for more from the six-piece group; here, the members reflect on their whirlwind 2022.

    ANYUJIN: We’re more than thankful for all the love we received this year. It’s hard to pick one moment since all moments were special, but if I had to choose one, it would be when we won both Rookie of the Year and Song of the Year awards at the year-end music award shows. I could only dream of that moment, but seeing that dream come to life made me so happy.

    LIZ: For me, it was when I met DIVEs in not only Korea, but also many parts of the world. Seeing them cheer for us and listening to the chants really boosted us up while performing.

    GAEUL: Celebrating our first-ever anniversary with the members was a priceless memory for me. From the times we spent together as trainees to debuting as IVE and now celebrating IVE’s first birthday! It gave me mixed emotions and motivated me to keep on doing better.


    REI: Of course, one of my favorite memories has to be when we visited my home country Japan together! Although it’s home to me, everything felt new and fresh with my second
    family, IVE.

    LEESEO: In 2023, I wish for us to get more chances to meet DIVEs in person! Being with our fans when we’re doing our album promotions or performing is truly a phenomenal experience.

    JANGWONYOUNG: Going beyond what IVE has shown up till now, I would like to reveal a new side of IVE through new songs and performances. There’s no way out of our charms!



    LE SSERAFIM, photo courtesy of Source Music

    It’s been a huge year for girl groups overall, and the conversation about K-pop groups in the year 2022 really can’t be had without acknowledging LE SSERAFIM. The act out of HYBE debuted just a few months ago in May of 2022, but you’d never know it from their threshold of performance and success of these early singles. The choreography of “FEARLESS” and “ANTIFRAGILE,” along with the vibe-y chorus of the latter in particular, projected LE SSERAFIM right to the spotlight.

    Kim Chaewon: We had a lot of fan sign events during our “ANTIFRAGILE” promotion. And there was one FEARNOT who told me, “Ever since I loved Chaewon, there’s been no sadness
    in my life and I’ve always been happy,” and that really stayed with me.


    Sakura: I can never forget the moment when we debuted. The moment when I finally got to perform in front of our fans after a long while was a very special moment for me.

    Huh Yunjin : We recently attended a couple of end-year award shows where we were able to both perform and receive honorable awards. I think these shows are one of the biggest highlights of this year because of all the time and effort we put into our performance. Seeing our hard work pay off in the form of praise and recognition made it all even more special.

    KAZUHA: The day of our debut showcase, I remember the first time I went on stage and I felt a sense of anticipation and determination for what’s to come in my life.


    Hong Eunchae: A lot of things have happened this year so it’s a year that I will never forget. This year, I joined LE SSERAFIM, achieved my dream of debuting and received so much love from FEARNOT. There were many things I experienced for the first time and many that I can’t forget, but most importantly, I would say that our debut is the brightest highlight I’ll always remember.

    Kim Chaewon: When we went to Japan, we went to a convenience store, came back with all of the snacks we wanted to try, and we all shared and chatted together.

    Sakura: Not too long ago, all five of us went on a trip. It was our very first trip together and I have a lot of fun memories from it.


    Huh Yunjin: When we had shabu shabu at the dorms together. Sakura cooked it for us and I remember it was just a normal day, but we were all hungry so we all gathered and just spent the night together with good food and Netflix.

    KAZUHA: Any time I spend with my members is special, but the time we shot “ANTIFRAGILE” music video was even more of a special memory for me. We practiced the choreography right
    after the completion of “FEARLESS” promotion, and I was so happy that all of the hard work we put into paid off and was shown in that video.

    Hong Eunchae: I cherish our day to day lives of eating and living together, but after we wrapped up “FEARLESS” promotion, which we worked so hard for, we went on a luxury hotel vacation for our YouTube content. I was so excited because it was a total surprise. Also, me being a homebody, I really loved the luxury stay-in vacation so I think I’ll remember that for a long time.


    Sakura: I’d love to go on a world tour and be able to give great performances to FEARNOT all over the world.

    Huh Yunjin: [I’d love] A world tour, more original music, and everyone’s staying healthy.

    KAZUHA: I’d love LE SSERAFIM perform at even more stages in 2023. It’d also be great to do promotions overseas as well as here in Korea. Personally, I’d like to try writing lyrics, take on new challenges and continue to expand my spectrum.

    Hong Eunchae: In 2023, we’d be able to go to more countries and meet more FEARNOT around the world so that’s what I’m most excited about. When I went to Japan this year, it was my first time going overseas, so that was an incredible experience, and I’d love to continue going overseas to many other countries and meet FEARNOT around the world. Next year, I’m also looking forward to what LE SSERAFIM’s music will be and seeing myself grow even more.



    top K-pop acts 2022

    NewJeans, photo courtesy of ADOR

    One of the most refreshing groups to arrive in recent years, NewJeans are a bright light in the next generation of K-pop. The surprise debut release of “Attention” quickly earned them plenty of attention, but the reactions both globally and domestically to follow-up single “Hype Boy” proved that NewJeans is much, much more than a one-hit wonder. In the crowded landscape of K-pop, it takes a lot to stand out — NewJeans have the youthful energy of K-pop’s take on The Cheetah Girls or Spice Girls, giving teen listeners (and anyone who loves a breezy, well-executed pop song, for that matter) so much to look forward to.

    Danielle: The new experiences and ever-lasting memories we have been able to make through what we now do get me even more excited for not only 2023, but all the years left to come.


    HAERIN: A lot happened in 2022, with unforgettable experiences and learning opportunities. It was a year that NewJeans gained hope and courage to move forward!

    MINJI: I’m ever more grateful to our members. I enjoy talking to them in the car, cherishing the small moments. When listening to music with the members, all my worries go out the window.